Should The Indians Trade From Their Pitching for a Big Bat?

Heading into the off-season, the Indians have a few key positions that they need filled. Most notably, these positions are in center field and right field. In order to get a quality bat, the Indians are most likely going to have to find a way to acquire such bat through a trade. In order to do this, their best chance of getting the kind of bat they want, they’ll need to tap into their strongest asset from 2015: their pitching.

Every team in baseball wants quality pitching. As the saying goes, “pitching wins baseball.” This is partially true. As we saw with the 2015 Indians and their phenomenal pitching staff, they were able to stay in contention through most of the season, even when the offense was abysmal. The only problem is that the Indians would ideally like acquire a bat without having to give up one of their top pitchers like Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, or Danny Salazar.

Both Carrasco and Kluber signed multiyear deals prior to the start of the 2015 season. Kluber, who was coming off his strong Cy Young winning 2014 season, signed a five-year, $38.5 million deal, while Carrasco signed an even more team friendly deal of four years, $22 million.

Carrasco is coming off of his strongest year where he posted an ERA of 3.63 with a record of 14-12. He struck out 216 and kept his FIP down to 2.84. Salazar is also coming off of his best season where he put up an ERA of 3.45 and a record of 14-10. He came close to striking out 200 batters, but was just five shy of that milestone.

These three pitchers will be major targets this winter, but especially Carrasco. After signing his deal, there was the thought that he may revert back to his former self and not be able to continue the success he had back in 2014. Instead, he far surpassed most people’s expectations. He came within one out of a no-hitter and had multiple chances of reaching it in other starts. He has a cheap contract, he’s still under 30 years of age, and he’s extremely dominant on the mound. There were plenty of rumors of moving him during the trade deadline, but he was inevitably kept.

If the Indians hope to be in contention this next season, they’ll need to acquire a bat somehow. They need a total boost of at least 4 WAR among players to contend. This is not an easy feat. Carrasco last season had a WAR of 4.8, Salazar was at 3.4, and Kluber at 5.5. If the Indians were to trade one of these three for a bat, they could potentially put themselves into a bigger hole, or not move forward at all. While their strongest asset is their pitching staff, they may need to be a bit more creative in the trade market. If they don’t move someone from their current staff, they could always tap into some of their pitching depth from the minor leagues.

There were multiple players from the Indians minor league system that saw break out years. A few of these guys include Michael Clevinger, Adam Plutko, and Ryan Merritt. While Merritt was absolutely dominant in the Carolina league in 2014, he kept it up in Double-A Akron this season and continued it into Triple-A Columbus. Plutko really broke out of his shell in 2015, as he had major success at High-A Lynchburg and kept rolling along at Double-A Akron as well.

In 27 starts this season, Plutko had a record of 2.39 with a record of 13-7. He struck out 137 and kept runners to a .208 average. He was by far the best pitcher in the Indians system this season, and should certainly be on the radar of more than a few teams this winter. He’s almost ready for the majors, and could have spent time in Columbus this season had their pitching staff not been filled up already. He could very well follow the footsteps of Cody Anderson and see time in Cleveland in 2016.

If the Indians decided that they did not want to lose any of their top three guys, they could easily move Plutko or others to acquire a bat. That would require a bigger package though to get the type of bat they need. While most teams are looking for pitching, they still would like to have a guy that is major league ready, unless they are in full rebuild mode. While I do think the Indians should acquire a bat this winter, I don’t think they should take the chance of getting a bat to lose a guy like Carrasco.

There is a guy in the current rotation that could be traded, and could be replaced internally – that guy being the big cowboy Anderson.

In 2014, Anderson had the worst year of his career. After winning the Bob Feller award in 2013 for being the best pitcher in the Indians minor league system, he followed it with having an atrocious season where he was far from the pitcher he once was. He then took the time this past winter to lean down and get more control of not only his pitches, but his body as well. He came back in 2015 and dominated in Double-A Akron, had a cup of coffee in Triple-A Columbus (where he was dominant in six starts), and was finally moved up to Cleveland.

During his time in Cleveland, he had an ERA of 3.05 in 15 starts. He posted a record of 7-3, struck out 44 batters while walking only 24. He’s only 25, and he should draw interest this winter.

Now, Anderson may not bring back as good of a haul as someone like Carrasco would, but right now he’s slated to be the fifth starter behind the top three and most likely Trevor Bauer. Even though he pitched well enough to earn himself a spot in the rotation, he could be replaced by Josh Tomlin, who also had a fantastic season after coming off major shoulder surgery. With Tomlin being 30 years old, and with no consistent success in the majors, he’s likely to draw no interest by teams, which makes Anderson a more likely target to be moved. If Anderson could bring in a guy of maybe a two WAR total, then the Indians would be benefiting from the trade.

Ideally I think the Indians would like to move Bauer, but let’s face it, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The Indians have holes in their lineup and they can be fixed. Moving a top-tier pitcher may be the only way to do it, but I honestly think otherwise. For the first time in a long time, the Indians have a ton of pitching talent in their farm system. If a team is willing to rebuild and wait a year for them to develop, then the Tribe may be able to pull something off.

Pitching talent is hard to come by, and the Indians have a lot of it.

Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

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